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2017 Healthcare Salary Trends:The Climb Continues

2017 Healthcare Salary Trends:The Climb Continues

By: Catherine Conlan

Healthcare salaries have enjoyed a steady uphill climb since the Great Recession, a trend that experts predict will continue this year. This trend is likely to persist despite the current political climate that is making it difficult to predict what might happen to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the impact on healthcare employment and salaries.

“The demand for talent will continue to grow as the Baby Boomer generation retires and as more individuals have insurance, demand for services will grow,” says Dana Cates, a consultant at Lean Human Capital by HealthcareSource, a talent-management resource company based in Woburn, Massachusetts. 

Here are three things that will affect healthcare compensation this year.

Aging Population, ACA Drive Higher Overall Demand for Care
The one-two punch of an aging population and expanded coverage under the ACA has increased demand for healthcare, pushing wages up, says Katie Bardaro, Vice President of data analytics at PayScale.

“Over the last two years, healthcare wages have grown by 4.2%, compared to national wages at 3.2%. If current patterns hold, we can likely expect wages to continue growing by another 2% to 4% in healthcare,” Bardaro says.

Front-line primary care providers in particular have seen high demand. Cates says physician assistants and nurse practitioners saw growth after the implementation of the ACA. Behavioral health and clinical informatics also have expanded under the ACA, Cates says, as more people have gained access to mental health services and organizations have turned to technology to manage information more efficiently.

Political Uncertainty Will Make Planning a Challenge
Medical facilities that are already dealing with an influx of patients due to more people having health coverage are finding it difficult to plan for the long term, says Dindy Robinson, Director of Compensation and Employment at Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas. In addition, changes in international visa policies could make it difficult to fill positions with people from overseas, which will drive salaries up for those positions, Robinson says.

Meanwhile, demand for some positions may decline if there are major changes in the ACA. 

“While we saw an increase in health development and community health employment opportunities last year, we have seen a sharp turn after the elections and in the first few weeks of the new presidency,” says Olivia Jaras, founder and CEO of Salary Coaching for Women in Hanover, New Hampshire. Most of these community-based health initiatives have slowed or frozen new hiring until further notice.

Demand Will Increase Pay 
Some healthcare roles will require special attention, Bardaro says, requiring employers to pay a premium to attract and retain top talent. 

Hot healthcare roles in 2017 include:

  • Nursing aides. Facilities have long relied on nurses’ aides to deliver many aspects of basic patient care. While this trend will continue, people in those roles are increasingly expected to use more sophisticated technology. That will require more employee training, Robinson says. In turn, these skills will drive up wages of the most highly- qualified workers.
  • Nurses and physician assistants. Compensation for these positions will have more bargaining power due to high demand, Jaras says. 
  • Executive positions. Healthcare companies are paying a premium for talented executives who can navigate the quickly changing healthcare landscape, Jaras says.